Original post July 24, 2017 by Chris Cooke
So today’s interview is one I’m very excited to share with y’all. Matt and Jen are two people who I’ve been blessed to know as friends (and best friend, co-volunteer, coworker, in supervisor role, and as a volunteer for them) for much of my life – God has used them both to shape and inspire me. This year they started their Cardboard Koinonia ministry, and naturally I wanted to to know more about it. Matt and Jen thankfully both took time out of their busy schedules to answer those questions. Hope you enjoy.
Could you share a bit about your testimony?
M: I grew up in a Christian household, not only that, but my parents were Salvation Army officers (Pastors) for the majority of my life at home. At age 5 I gave my heart to the Lord with the help of my Nan (Grandma) who was also an Officer. I always believed, and never doubted my faith or the existence of God but always wondered how God and the Bible fit in with what science and history says and what various scientists say. In my early twenties I began to lose interest in church, I found it boring and didn’t feel that it had anything to offer me and had no idea how to formulate or share my faith. That is until I discovered apologetics. I am a big history and science buff so learning that there was more to faith than just a blind leap was exciting.
J: I came to the Lord as a child and have grown in my knowledge and faith ever since. Like everyone, I’ve faced many ups and downs, but God has revealed himself to me in every circumstance and I have learned to be thankful and praise Him throughout every journey. Marrying Matt has deepened and strengthened my love for God, and His people. I’m excited for how He will use us both to further His kingdom through CK.
You both have been involved with a number of ministries – what can you tell us about them?
M: Growing up in the Salvation Army gives you ample opportunity to serve in all sorts of ways, I have helped with disaster relief, thrift stores, soup kitchens, family services, and youth groups. I have also been a regular part of the worship team as a drummer in each church I attend.
J: I’ve had the opportunity to serve in a few different ministries, 99% out of Calvary Church Toronto where I was born and raised. I’ve enjoyed leadership opportunities in both the Children and Youth ministries, and am currently a Worship Leader. I loved my time at Pape Youth Centre (Youth Unlimited, TYFC) working with you, Chris. I loved bringing the teens together and showing them the love of Jesus through hanging out, cooking, eating, and playing games.
Why board games? What do you think makes them so interesting to you and others? Why is there such a growing community with them?
M: Board games have a unique way of bringing people together no matter who they are. People can sit at a table and have fun and connect regardless of social status, religion, or culture. I have played games with people from other countries, old and young, atheists, and agnostics as well as fellow believers. No matter who you are you are welcome at a table.
Can you share about the name – why Cardboard Koinonia?
M: Koinonia is a greek word that means christian fellowship, or communion with, God and/or other believers. This is the biggest part of our ministry. Most board games are made of cardboard so that’s where that part came from.
When did you first have the idea for Cardboard Koinonia? How long did it take to get the ball rolling and what steps did you need to take?
M: I have always wanted an excuse or an event that brings people together from various churches. It seems as though many people don’t associate very much with others beyond their own church building. I have also always loved board games and had previously planned game nights at our church just to get the church family together for some fun, we love hosting events and bringing people together. It really wasn’t until I began listening to the Game Store Prophets podcast and finding my way to their Facebook group, The Tavern, that I really figured out which direction it all needed to head. Early 2016 I came up with the name Cardboard Koinonia and started a facebook group of my own. From there we’ve grown it and built a facebook page, and a full website, we’ve had many more events, and I have had chances to talk to others doing similar things in their hometowns from California to Germany. We have been encouraged by the responses and help from others, and feel God calling us to continue with this ministry.
What are your goals with this ministry? What will you do if you can become a non-profit?
M: Our immediate goals are to get our website hosted and shorten our address so we’re a bit easier to find, having a few more awesome Game Nights, working with a great organization on a super secret event, and eventually turning Cardboard Koinonia into a charitable organization officially. This will allow us to raise money both for Cardboard Koinonia and other people and organizations. This will allow us to bring our gaming events to other churches, find our way to different conventions, and make us and our board games available to people that need us. Maybe people have just had a bad week and need to unwind, or maybe they feel as though they don’t really have friends or don’t belong. Lastly, we will be able to create and give away fun things like shirts, bags, and games.
Are there any resources (pastors, authors, theologians, websites) you learn from that you’d recommend to people to check out?
M: If you’re talking in general then I have a nice big list of Theologians, Philosophers, and Apologists that I enjoy and have learned a lot from. People like William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Greg Koukl, J. Warner Wallace, and Lee Strobel being my favourites. In regards to games and God in particular I look to Mike Perna of Innroads Ministries who is an inspiration and sort of a involuntary mentor, Geeks Under Grace, Geekdom House, and Sam Healey and the Dice Steeple and Dice Tower have also inspired me to a lesser degree.
What do you both think is a challenge facing the church today?
M: I think too many kids are growing up not knowing what they believe and why, then when they are pressed regarding their faith they cannot give answers. Nearly half of the youth that leave Christianity do so because of intellectual difficulty. When challenged about their faith they don’t have a leg to stand on. People nowadays are overly skeptical and won’t believe anything unless there are facts to back it up.
J: I think it’s can be challenging to build relationships, and develop a strong sense of community, family, and belonging. There are many small groups within our church, but (as far as I know) there aren’t any cross-generational ones. I’d love more opportunities to break bread, laugh, cry, serve, learn, play, and grow with every age group.There’s a lot that can be learned from simply spending time with one another. I’d love to see the body become like the church mentioned in Acts 2.
Do you find that more niche/out of the box ministries have more of an uphill battle (and if so, why)?
M: Yes and no, in the case of something like Geeks Under Graceor Innroads ministries, people are out there looking for a place where they belong, geeks in many cases had been relegated to the outside, churches were not equipped to know what to do with them, they were outsiders in most cases. These organisations give them a community, and know how to serve them the gospel and get them involved. The problem with niche ministries such as these is the amount of people that they minister to. If it wasn’t for the internet and being able to reach people from all over the world Geeks Under Grace and Gamechurch could not have grown to the sizes they have. Years ago it would have been near impossible, but we live in a time where the groups are available and at a time when I believe them to be most needed.
How can people support your ministry?
M: Prayers are always needed and appreciated. This ministry is nothing without God and his help. Secondly, check out our site and Facebook page. Comment, like, and share, let us know you’re out there and you like what we’re doing. Lastly, we currently have a GoFundMe campaign up and running to help us raise money to grow and get our ministry off on the right foot. Donations help pay for our website, events, and help us work towards becoming a charitable organization.
And finally, what would you both suggest to those who want to start their own ministry/non-profit organization?
M: If you already have something in mind, pray about it. God will let you know if that’s what you are supposed to do. Be passionate about it, work on it, think about it, and again pray about it everyday. If you don’t already have something in mind but you know you want to start a ministry figure out what you’re most passionate about, what are your favourite hobbies? How can you use that for others? Are you a carpenter? Build things for others. Are you an athlete? Start a kids sports program, or an adult one. Teach people how God can be glorified through sport.
J: Team up with others because you can’t do it alone! While you might think it’s “your baby| it’s actually God’s ministry and God’s plan and God’s timing. We were made to work together. Spread the word quickly, and ask your friends for help or suggestions. Everyone knows someone who could help with one thing or another.
If you’d like to learn more about Cardboard Koinonia, or if you’re loving what they’re about and would like/be able to financially contribute, you can do so by hitting up these links:
Thanks for reading my friends, I hope and pray that this was encouraging and beneficial for you. God bless my friends.
Be sure to check out Chris’s blog One Cross Street